From the Philly Burbs:
Fix it or risk it.
That’s the message the Township Council will be handing down to the owners of neglected commercial sites who are now in danger of losing their properties to eminent domain.
Specifically, Mayor Randy Brown pointed out the long-shuttered Olga’s Diner and the nearly empty Tri-Towne Plaza as prime examples of properties that should be redeveloped.
“I’m going to fast-track eminent domain or condemnation of these properties,” Brown said Friday. “We’ve got to do it. We have to move forward on this as soon as possible.”
Under state law, a property can be declared in need of redevelopment and face being taken by a municipality if the site is abandoned, unsafe or dilapidated, among other criteria.
Neither the owner of the Olga’s Diner property, John Stavros of Cherry Hill, nor RD Management, responsible for the Tri-Towne Plaza, returned calls for comment Friday.
Township officials said they could work with the owners to improve their buildings as part of a rehabilitation approach.
“Rehabilitation is more of a carrot than a stick,” said Leah Furey Bruder, planner for the Planning Board.
Rather than seize the property, the rehabilitation process is less stringent and similar to an “invitation” for businesses to improve their properties through incentives, Furey Bruder said.
But at this point, “I like the stick (approach). A big 2-by-4,” Brown said during a discussion on the issue at the council’s work session last week.
“They have fed off Evesham residents for decades — and now Olga’s and (RD Management) couldn’t care less,” the mayor continued.